Ruben Sargsyan, Head of the Monitoring Group, pointed out the three-level system of parole, overcrowding and medical services as main problems in Armenian prisons.
“We are getting more and more alerts. Anyway, there is a positive shift. Lately the Ministry of Justice and Department have been acting more transparently,” said Sargsyan.
“We can count on the fingers of one hand cases when convicts have been granted parole,” said Hasmik Harutyunyan, observer of the Monitoring Group, “5460 convicts applied for parole out of which 960 applications were submitted to the independent commission in 2013. The latter approved 273 applications while the court granted parole only to 261 convicts.”
With respect to the medical services in prisons, Nare Mesropyan, observer of the Monitoring Group, said that penitentiary institutions in Armenia need specialists.
“In several prisons convicts cannot get medical care because there are no doctors there. Another matter of concern is the specialists’ training, as well as lack of equipment and medicine,” she added.
Sergey Gabrielyan spoke on the discrimination against homosexual convicts. “Homosexual convicts are held in special cells with bad conditions. They are assigned the most humiliating tasks as cleaning toilets, floors, shoes, cells or taking out garbage. They cannot have meals in the commissary like others. Even their dishware is separated. They are totally isolated from the rest,” said Gabrielyan.
The monitoring group pointed out another problem, namely prohibited items can be taken into prisons. “No profound investigation is conducted to find out how prohibited items are taken into prisons. And it has to be stated that penitentiary institutions are not facilitated with special cells for hunger strikers,” said Arayik Zalyan.